Valfaris is a bloody, heavy metal sidescroller reminiscent of Contra. With a double bass slamming soundtrack and excellent polish, it ticks most of the 2D shoot-em up boxes but doesn’t innovate much on the standard recipe.
In deep space, a wolfship exits hyperspace as it approaches Valfaris – a giant floating citadel of metal. Aboard the ship is Therion, a long black haired man with red armor. He is searching for his father Vroll in order to bring him to justice for unspecified crimes. Hekate, an AI companion, helps guide him through Valfaris, which was his home, in his search for Vroll.
The gameplay is mostly simple. Movement is controlled via the keyboard with ASD and Space for jumping and Therion can climb ladders and dangling pipes. There is also controller support which, for me, is slightly easier to use than the keyboard.
Therion can wield variety of weapons. Q fires his plasma pistol which is a small ranged attack. Pressing W he attacks with his plasma blade that can harvest energy from targets and also go through other plasma attacks. Holding Left Shift activates a shield that uses energy to stop projectiles and, timed right, reflect them back. Left Shift also is used to hold your position so you can stay still while firing in a certain direction. Throughout the game, Therion can find more weapons to use as well as upgrade material, Blood Metal, to make them stronger.
Therion must find Resurrection Idols in order to activate save points where he can change and upgrade his weapons. Resurrection Idols are also used for upgrading his max health and energy. There are also health and energy drops that will assist Therion in his journey.
Every level has its own look and feel. The enemies suit the environment and add to the immersion. For e.g. first level is a gritty, industrial, mechanical mess with killer cyborg dogs, soldiers and mechanized bosses. There are also theme-appropriate environmental dangers, obstacles and small secret areas. Progression is linear so there’s no backtracking involved whatsoever. Overall, this makes the game a fairly casual romp depending on the difficulty you’re playing on.
The simplistic gameplay with a few tricky bits make the game easy to pick up and play. There are challenges in overcoming some bosses and environments. Each new enemy has different ways to attack, move or interact with the player and they deal quite a bit of damage.
Fighting enemies in bloody carnage is mostly satisfying. The level and enemy changes keep the combat fresh and exciting. However, there were a few times where either the spawning of the enemies or their attack patterns felt more annoying than engaging to me.
The level itself can have platforming challenges, secrets and environmental dangers. Some platforming can feel slightly clunky – jumping and landing can feel just a bit off. On the other hand, climbing is very satisfying. Therion’s interaction with dangling cables is well done.
The music in this game is one of the main highlights. The soundtrack is primarily heavy metal with some synths and choirs added in. More intense tracks are used for areas with large amounts of fighting while droning tracks are used in cooldown areas where there are spotty fights and more exploring.
The sound effects of the weapons are so-so. Some can have that satisfying thump can be spammed endlessly while others can have an annoying shriek that makes you want to cut less. Enemy sounds are well done and vary a lot. The interaction sounds are very fitting for the bloody, gritty theme of the game.
Valfaris’ visual style is mostly pixel art with some non-pixel sprites being used for various effects such as smoke or plasma trails. While I understand from a budget point of view the decision to use sprites, the visual inconsistency can feel slightly off. I don’t think it would be a big deal for most people but to me it feels like some of those effects are less polished.
While I may not be 100% on the visuals, the animation is really great. There’s a lot of small environment animations for every level, each enemy has different movement, effect and body animations – there’s a lot of effort that went into it.
Valfaris is a very polished, well-rounded 2D science fantasy action game. While it’s gameplay is standard, it’s level of polish is not. Great visuals and good gameplay make for a bloody fun romp!